Build massive muscle
Lose weight without diet and exercise
Enhance your immune system
Can you really take a supplement that will achieve any of these effects, or are you throwing money down the drain?
While some dietary supplements deliver on their promises, and some can be critical for health others have no effect at all and some have caused serious, irreversible side effects and death.
How does this happen? Comedian John Oliver addressed this issue with supplements after a recent Senate hearing featuring an appearance by TV host Dr. Oz.
Deciding whether or not to take a supplement is about your health and safety. There are dangerous supplements on sale, over the counter today. So before you empty your wallet or risk your life on the latest pill, powder or liquid that promises to make your life better, it’s important to stop and ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I need this supplement?
2. Is this supplement safe and effective?
With thousands of dietary supplements on the market, this can be tough to answer. For specific supplements or supplement ingredients, WebMD is a great resource for information. You can quickly learn about a supplement, its uses, side effects, and dosing. With this information, you can make an informed decision whether or not to take a specific supplement.
There are three common reasons people take supplements. First, to aide in weight loss. Second, to build lean muscle mass, and Third, to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals.
There are no magic pills for weight loss. Most supplements touted for weight loss are either not safe or not effective. You may recall that in 2009 the FDA warned consumers to stop taking Hydroxcut. It was found to cause liver disease and even death in one individual. Ephedra, OxyElite Pro and any product containing sibutramine are also not safe to take. One of the latest is Asset Bold, which contains sibutramine but does not list it on the label.
- Don’t take dietary supplements to lose weight. There really aren’t any safe dietary supplements proven to help with weight loss. Spend your money on healthy, high quality foods that are proven to manage weight!
For athletes or those just looking for a good workout, quick recovery and improved fitness, there are some safe supplements with potential benefit, and there are supplements that are clearly not worth the risk. Whether you decide “to take or not to take” is a personal decision, but here are some of the best and worst in this category:
- Protein and amino acid supplements. While most people consume enough protein and amino acids from their normal diet, these supplements can be a convenient way to ensure you get enough protein and amino acids if your diet is lacking or you otherwise eat a low protein diet. Do not exceed 1 gram protein per pound of body weight daily.
- Caffeine. Taken in moderation and in known quantities before a workout, caffeine may help with strength, endurance and recovery time. A small cup of coffee (about 100 milligrams of caffeine) is often enough to achieve positive effects for a workout.
- Creatine. May be good for strength and short-term bursts of energy such as sprinting. Because creatine draws water to the muscles, creatine users need to drink enough water to stay hydrated and maintain good kidney function.
- Avoid supplements with high doses of stimulants. You may think you are getting a good workout, but like steroids, excess doses of stimulants can push your body past the point in your exercise routine that is healthy. Excessive doses of stimulants (caffeine is just one type of stimulant) can cause elevated blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
In addition to caffeine, look for other stimulant ingredients on the label such as guarana, yerba mate and extracts of green tea or coffee bean that together can lead to a caffeine wallop. There are also some supplements are tainted with illegal, unlabeled stimulants; one such supplement called Craze that contains a methamphetamine-like compound!
2. Steroids: there are no legal, safe steroids.
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
There’s little evidence to support taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement for most people. So why not just take them anyway, for insurance? Because it is possible to overdose on some vitamins and minerals with negative effects. The idea that “if some is good, more is better” is false when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential “micronutrients,” meaning we need them for life but in small amounts. Taking high quantities of vitamins A, B or E and have negative consequences.
While some people may benefit from specific vitamin and mineral supplements, such as B12 for vegetarians and vegans, iron supplements for those with iron-deficiency anemia and folic acid to prevent birth defects, most people don’t need to take supplements. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risks and if you could benefit from supplemental vitamins or minerals.
If you want more information on the use of supplements, how they may or may not benefit You, or info on purchasing quality dietary supplements, contact me or check out these websites below.
Rana Parker, Department Dietitian: 213-252-3090 or firstname.lastname@example.org